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Roundtable approves Vallejos Ditch project

Posted: Thursday, Sep 20th, 2012

The Vallejos Ditch is one of the oldest in the area, named for Antonio Vallejos in 1848. Photo courtesy of the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — Aiding numerous Costilla County families with flood control and more efficient crop irrigation, the Rio Grande Roundtable on Tuesday approved a $100,000 grant to the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association for the Vallejos Ditch headgate replacement.

If the Colorado Water Conservation Board concurs, $90,000 will come from statewide funds and $10,000 from the local basin roundtable funds. Coupled with matching funds, the project is estimated to cost about $116,100.

Joe Gallegos, who presented the request to the roundtable group on Tuesday, said the actual costs might be less than the current estimate. For example, he said the $2,000 estimate for dewatering may not be necessary.

The biggest portion of the project cost, budgeted at $66,000, is the concrete work.

Gallegos and Nicole Langley, project coordinator, explained why the project is necessary and how it fits into funding criteria. Langley said this structural project meets criteria for funding from the local and statewide water accounts.

“It cures a very serious flooding problem,” she added.

Gallegos said when the ditch headgate is replaced, the ditch will be able to handle a greater volume of water, so flooding risks will be reduced.

Gallegos said the Culebra Creek Watershed, of which the Vallejos Creek Ditch is a part, irrigates 23,000 acres over 36 square miles. It serves 83 acequia organizations and 228 families.

The Vallejos Ditch is very old, Gallegos explained. It was named after Antonio Vallejos in 1848.

The current diversion structure was built in 1965, he added, and it has deteriorated over the years. Concrete is falling apart and the gates are almost inoperable. The result is sediment build up and flooding. A great deal of debris has clogged the ditch so that its carrying capacity is only 70 percent, Gallegos explained.

The solution is a new diversion, he said. The benefits include greater safety, more efficient water delivery and a healthier riparian environment.

In addition to approving the Vallejos Ditch project, the roundtable this week heard preliminary funding requests from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education to publish an update on the Rio Grande Basin in the “Headwaters” magazine and the Colorado Rio Grande Restoration Foundation for the third phase of the Plaza Project.

Colorado Foundation for Water Education Program Manager Kristin Maharg and Headwaters Editor Jayla Poppleton presented the request for funding to publish an updated “Headwaters” issue on the Rio Grande Basin. They said the last edition dedicated to this basin was published in 2005.

The cost to publish about 5,000 copies of the 40-page publication would be about $33,000, they explained. They said the content of the basin-focused issue would be determined by an expert work group, probably comprised of Rio Grande Roundtable members. Maharg said the success of the basin-focused issue would depend on the involvement of the roundtable.

Water educator Judy Lopez said she distributes hundreds of Headwaters magazines through her efforts with students and teachers. She said the magazine is informative and relevant.

“Their citizen guides are something no one else is doing,” she added. “They are spot on with the information.”

She said teachers are using “Headwaters” publications in their classrooms for all levels from middle and high school to college courses.

“There’s been tremendous changes in the last seven years in this basin, and certainly it’s appropriate for an update of what’s going on,” said Roundtable member Steve Vandiver, manager for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District.

The roundtable will hear and act on a formal funding request during its next meeting.

The same will be true for the Plaza Project funding. Project Coordinator Heather Dutton will be formally requesting $370,000 at the next meeting, $70,000 from the local basin account and $300,000 from the statewide account. The total cost for the third phase of the Plaza Project is estimated at $875,000, Dutton said.

The project is located at Sevenmile Plaza between Monte Vista and Del Norte. The first phase involved planning, the second involved the design completion and construction (this fall) of the McDonald Ditch and the third will replace diversion and head gates on the Prairie Ditch.

Roundtable members also heard from Colorado Water Conservation Board staffer Greg Johnson that revenues are down this year because of diminished severance tax funds, the source of CWCB project funding. While CWCB was projected to receive $10 million this year it received $3.2-3.3 million. However, the statewide account still has a healthy fund balance, Johnson said, with $7.2 million. He said the CWCB board this month will be reviewing 21 applications totaling $4.8 million.

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